Matthew Norman's Media Diary

There's no stopping theWall Street shuffle
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The Independent Online

Shock and awe stalk the US newspaper industry as Rupert Murdoch is accused of telling whoppers by the "independent committee" set up to facilitate his purchase of The Wall Street Journal. I find this hard to believe. Don't these people realise he was once awarded a papal knighthood as "a man of unblemished character"? Apparently not, the five committee members having the impudence to complain about not being consulted, as they had been promised they would be about such decisions, about the removal of WSJ managing editor, Marcus Brauchli, to a sinecure and his replacement with Robert Thomson.

Robert, the dapper Aussie who protected The Times's own fearsome independence from government propagandising during his editorship, has the novel title of "contents editor", one of the two words seemingly redundant. Frankly, I can't see why the Bancroft family, the WSJ's previous owners, were worried enough about Rupert respecting the paper's traditions to insist on this absurd committee in the first place. It is not as if he has any form in the area. I certainly can't recall a similar arrangement to protect The Times and Sunday Times when he bought them, let alone Harold Evans recording how Rupert later dismissed that agreement to abide by the committee's independent decisions as unworthy of the paper on which it was written. These pompous twits on the WSJ committee want to watch their mouths. Their baseless whinings cut no ice with us.

speaking of the Thunderer, it is good to see it striving to become the whole planet's paper of record, and more. The editor, James Harding, has created two exciting correspondent posts, one for Oceans and the other for World Poverty – and that's just the start. James is thought to have plans to extend the paper's reach yet further by appointing an Intergalactic Correspondent, the smart money going on tank top-wearing Saturday editor, George Brock.

The BBC's religious affairs department underscores its reputation for courage with a top secret memo to all Thought For The Day contributors. "Are you increasing tension and emotion in your script for impact – if so, is it justified in the context of what you are writing?" it asks. "How easily could you defend your script if it is challenged by the listener? Is what you are writing likely to cause offence?" And so on. Marvellous stuff. Whether they have the thrillingly provocative musings of Rabbi Lionel Blue in mind more than the thrilling controversialism of Anne Atkins, it is hard to be sure. But this attempt to rein them in pays fitting homage to the tradition of avoiding contention in religious discourse, as established by Jesus, the prophets and others who shied away from challenging the received wisdom of the age. Anyway, there is a limit to how much raw excitement the body can take at a quarter to eight in the morning.

I'm beside myself with glee, on flicking through the latest GQ, to find a lavish spread featuring David Bailey's black-and-white portraits of our most lustrous political figures. The main party leaders are all there, of course, but the eye is drawn to the hacks. And what studies in gorgeousness they are. Top Daily Mirror opinion former Kevin Maguire appears, in what looks very like a Gap shirt the missus gave me for Christmas, with his arms folded in the style of darts star Terry "The Raging Bull" Jenkins doing menace in a Sky Sports trailer. Beside him is The Sun's George Pascoe-Watson, exquisite in a pin-striped jacket and silken tie. The Guardian's Jackie Ashley, a terrific columnist currently waging a painful and losing internal battle to retain an iota of faith in the PM, is also there ... and next to her is The Daily Telegraph's Alice Thomson, flashing a lascivious glance at Bailey's lens. God knows why there was no space for Alice's husband, Ed Heathcoat Amory (whose fabled deconstruction of John Lennon's song 'Imagine' we may revisit shortly). Yet more inexplicable is the absence of the top opinion former, Jon Gaunt. Then again, this is just the kind of metrocentric, skinny latte-sipping snobbery you would expect from a gentleman's magazine. Poor show.

Speaking of Gaunty, as we generally do on a Monday, has he ever been on such form? "Aussie columnist Amanda Platell, the professional irritant who put the B in itch ..." begins one item. A noble effort, Gaunty, but for that gag to have the vaguest chance, there does need to be a "B" in "Itch" in the first place. Do Sun subs ignore this sort of thing in a give-him-enough-rope kind of way, or do they just not care?

As for one of Gaunty's stablemates, Kelvin MacKenzie, hats off to him on his spirited run for Elmbridge Council. Kelvin came second out of three in his ward of Weybridge South with 227 votes, campaigning on the single issue of a protest against a £1.50 hike in the daily parking fee at his railway station. As Kelvin told this newspaper on Friday, this is "a springboard for the future". Indeed, indeed. From the tiniest acorns and all that, and we see no reason why Kelvin shouldn't emulate his fellow media tycoon, Silvio Berlusconi. In fact, he might consider changing his party's name from Red Mist, which frankly sounds a little Billy Bragg-Paul Weller for Kelvin's tastes, to Forza Elmbridge!

The inaugural award for Daily Mail Health Scare of the Week goes, finally, to a certain Dr Robert Morris for "Poison In The Kitchen: How Tap Water Could Damage Your Brain, Blind Or Even Kill You". An absolute classic.

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